Penn’s is partnering with the medical schools at Temple University, Drexel University, Thomas Jefferson University and Rowan University, as well as two pediatric hospitals, to form the Philadelphia Coalition for a Cure, a collaboration that will streamline brain tumor research and individualized treatment.
On Feb. 3, the neurosurgery departments of the cooperating universities announced their plans to work alongside the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the Children’s Hospital of Orange County to provide children and adults with screenings — personalized molecular profiling technology provided by NantHealth, Inc.that allows doctors at participating locations to skip the first line of general treatment and immediately diagnose the best plan of action for each patient.
CHOP served as the coordinating site of PC4C, with founding Directors Adam Resnick and Jay Storm, chief of the Division of Neurosurgery at CHOP, leading the cause.
“It was their mission and their goal to create a coalition in Philadelphia which included each of the major medical institutions and create an atmosphere where we can bridge across these different academic and medical institutions to improve the treatment and care for patients here in Philadelphia,” CHOP’s Outreach Liaison Robert Moulder said. “I think this is a unique, new opportunity to allow Philadelphia to be a test case for the way that precision medicine can work.”
Independence Blue Cross will cover the charges of GPS Cancer tests for all insurance holders, and the members of PC4C hope to be able to offer the service to anybody in need.
Christina Maxwell, research director at the Drexel Neurosciences Institute and coordinator of PC4C research activities, said she feels members are taking the correct approach by working collectively.
“Neurosurgery is such a small field in general that the only way to be successful for neurosurgery research is to collaborate,” Maxwell said. “I don’t think that there is a competition among the region’s neurosurgeons where they are against collaboration. I think it’s a very open and very collaborative environment because they all have the patients’ best interests in mind as their primary goal.”
For Michael Weaver, chair of the Department of Neurosurgery at Temple University’s Lewis Katz School of Medicine, the decision of whether to join the consortium did not take long to make.
“Neurosurgery is a pretty small community, and we all get along pretty well,” Weaver said. “So when one of our colleagues comes to us and says, ‘listen, I’ve got this really interesting idea,’ I think we go out of our way to support that.”
Though partnership increases the volume of data available to neurosurgeons and researchers, it poses its own challenges.
“It’s a difficult logistical project because you’re getting tissue material from many different institutions,” said Donald O’Rourke, neurosurgery professor at the Perelman School of Medicine.
Nonetheless, many PC4C leaders are hopeful for what the future will bring.
“I’m hoping that eventually [the coalition] will become commonplace. This is a huge deal that they’re using this testing,” Maxwell said. “Someday it won’t be a big deal, it will just be what we do.”
“Brain tumors are the leading cause of disease-related death in children and more than 20,000 adults are diagnosed each year,”Storm said in a . “Together we’re embarking on an incredibly exciting journey toward revolutionizing cancer care.”
Moulder shared his own hopes for the future.
“Ideally the goal is to not have any patients, to prevent these things from happening,” he said.